Our knowledge of comparative effects of various antiseptics or germicidal substances is still inconclusive. The method whereby their efficiency is compared to that of phenol (carbolic acid) has been valuable, in the case of phenol-like compounds, though even here the results are not in any manner as reliable as many seem to believe. When the phenol coefficient is applied to other antiseptic agents, the results are often far from indicating the real bacteria killing power of the product and frequently lead to confusion.
Among the preparations used today for antiseptic and germicidal effects, those containing mercury form an important class. These preparations range in composition from the well known and long used mercuric chloride to highly complex synthetic organic compounds such as mercurochrome-220 soluble.
The phenol coefficient is used by some to classify these and other antiseptics. As workers find it difficult to check one another for the phenol coefficient
PETERSON JB. MERCURIALSA PROPOSED METHOD OF LABORATORY EVALUATION AND CLASSIFICATION. JAMA. 1926;87(4):223–225. doi:10.1001/jama.1926.02680040011004
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